Tuesday, May 22, 2007


I walked into the office of a junior high on my school route yesterday. One of the secretaries told me, "Don't look over at Debbie's desk. There's a kid being sick." Of course I looked at Debbie's desk. Debbie was typing, which is what I usually see her doing. There was a boy on his knees leaning over her trash can, heaving. My first thought was, "I'm glad they put liners in those cans."

The girl who told me not to look was grimacing, as was the other girl across from her. They are both young women who don't have children. Debbie, on the other hand, is a mom, so a kid barfing is nothing new to her. Nor should it be in any school. You've got to expect things like that in schools.

Once I talked to a secretary who couldn't stand the sight of blood. I said, "How can you be a school secretary when kids are coming up to you all the time with cut fingers or waving a bloody stump of an arm?" She said, "I ask someone else to put on a Band-Aid." She told me she had five children, so I asked how she survived their upbringing. She said, "I'd call the neighbor to come over and dress their wounds."
I wonder how I'd do in this particular situation? Years ago a coworker, Dick, drove into a schoolyard to see a commotion on the playground. A big kid had somehow gotten a rope knotted around his neck and was hanging from the overhead ladder, strangling. A teacher was trying to untie the knot while the kid was grabbing at it. Both were in a panic. Dick ran over, took his pocketknife and cut the kid down, then carried him into the school where the knot was untied. By this time the kid was purple. The principal called paramedics, then called the parents, who said, "Oh, no need to take Johnny to the hospital. We're sure he's fine." In other words, Mom and Dad had no medical insurance. The principal was wise to send the kid to the hospital, anyway, despite dire threats of lawsuits from the parents. A lot of people don't realize that when a kid is in school the principal has parental rights in such cases.

The kid recovered, but not so Dick, who was never the same. Dick was a short man, about 5'2" tall, with an enormous paunch that practically touched the ground when he walked. Running with the large boy in his arms put his back into spasms, and he had some other damage, too. Eventually, after two or three years, a couple of surgeries and lots and lots of sick leave, Dick retired. I'm sure the kid has grown up by now and that incident is just a distant memory, but Dick is probably still paying for it.

So entering a school you never know what you'll see. Custodians tell me kids sometimes shit in a corner, and vomiting is common. What the hell are these kids eating that makes them little puking machines? I haven't thrown up twice in the past 20 years, much less twice a week like some of these kids. Or could it be…stress? For some kids just the thought of school, or taking a test, or being late with an assignment, is enough to cause last night's dinner and this morning's Cheerios to make a quick trip backwards through the esophagus.
Ciao for now.

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